What’s the most useful undergraduate degree?

Spinoff off the "What's the most difficult UG degree thread?."

So after a couple semesters of college I feel like many of the general classes have a lot of theory and not as much application as I would have liked despite being in the business college.

With this in mind I am proposing the question written in the title of this post.
To get this discussion going define "useful" to be a degree that translates to a FT role. If you have a different definition please mention below .

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Comments (45)

Aug 17, 2019 - 8:19pm

Most useful has to be Math degree . The amount of effort required to have a high GPA in Math is difficult and those who get a 3.6/3.7 gpa is equivalent to a 3.8/3.9 in finance major .

You can do math undergrad --> masters--> phd and then live your life as apart of academia or you can double major in math+econ or math+finance and get into high finance. Math is quite applicable to any FT position whether its F500 , IB, HF because if you have a high GPA in math, you will have endless opportunities.

Aug 17, 2019 - 8:49pm

The math required in finance roles is algebra at best (excluding some HF roles and quants ). Also your claim seems invalid because the difference between a 3.6-3.7 and 3.8-3.9 is getting more A- then As which is usually a percentage point off anyways so math wouldn't be much more rigorous if that was the case. Can you show evidence to back up your claim that a math degree is best at opening doors in Finance?


Aug 18, 2019 - 12:48am

Generally speaking a 3.6 in a math major is quite good ( depends on school and other factors ) because the program is focused on quantitive courses that are necessary to earn the degree whilst finance majors have the ability to either take or avoid quantitive courses.

A math degree may not be the best at opening the most doors in finance but i think everyone understands that a 3.6gpa in math is as equally impressive if not more impressive than a 3.8gpa in finance. Combine that with relevant internships and being socially involved with alumni it could potentially yield great job prospects and also provide a good opportunity for one to differentiate themselves from the competition.

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Aug 19, 2019 - 10:24pm

The thing with a math degree is that later classes are highly dependent on earlier classes. If you failed or could not grasp calculus, there's a slim chances you'll do any good at differential equations the next semester, etc. I'd say that almost all classes in a math program build on something from previous classes.

In business, the classes seemed to be a lot more disconnected.

I guess my point is that if you want to succeed in majors like Math, Physics, etc. you really, really need to understand and work with the material, and progress as the years go. If you haven't mastered the basics, that's almost a guaranteed GPA killer.

Aug 19, 2019 - 10:24pm

Side note but i talked to a senior who recently graduated and is working at a quant shop. He majored in math and physics and told me a 3.8+ is virtually impossible due to the grade curve and time required.

He said that upper level math courses are comprised of the majority of people barely passing the final exam and a minority getting top marks.

Most Helpful
Aug 17, 2019 - 9:57pm


Tons of optionality- could go to actual engineering (which in of itself is a very diverse field), probably go to Med School if you scored a high MCAT, same story for Law School/ LSAT, or get into a lot of finance roles (depending on other factors like school and GPA).

All other factors held equal, Engineering gives a lot of optionality and generates respect from a wide variety of industries.

“The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.” - Nassim Taleb
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Aug 17, 2019 - 10:10pm

I think it's more of the logical way of thinking that may translate. Total speculation though.

It is also hard to tell if the type of people who willfully choose something difficult are more inclined to stick it out with an arduous career path or if what they study truly equates to success.

There are also a surprising amount of successful people who never went/ dropped out/ got 3.0 or below GPAs. May be survivorship bias because the narrative is interesting, as I'm sure there are droves and droves of those people who did not end up "WSO successful".

Success is different for everyone. Landing a 30 hour a week job that pays the bills while spending time with family is the epitome of success for plenty of people.

“The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.” - Nassim Taleb
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Aug 19, 2019 - 7:20pm

It's interesting ~20% of CEOs are engineering majors .

20% of what ... Fortune 500 CEOs....

Small business CEOs....

All CEOs?

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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Aug 20, 2019 - 4:30pm

I agree that engineering is one of the most useful. I would say that a computer science related degree could probably get you a lot of mileage just out of undergrad with little to no real world experience. Most other engineering degrees open up a career path in industrial fields, with the potential to be managing other engineers within a few years. However, outside of the computer field, many engineering degrees exist in a factory sort of environment.

The other path I'd throw out there is some type of medical tech degree. You can train to be a nurse, lab tech, radiology tech, etc and be in high demand upon graduation. Going full med school is expensive and a lot of the benefits to becoming a doctor are offset by the debt. But going down the nurse practitioner or physician assistant route are good options if you want more autonomy.

At the end of the day, choosing comes down to what your interests are, what you're good at, and what sort of environment you want to be in.

Aug 18, 2019 - 12:14am

Psychology or Engineering, depending on the definition of 'useful'

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

Aug 27, 2019 - 10:02pm

Go the CS route after college, but understand how businesses actually make money + be able to communicate effectively. Most programmers are severely held back by lack of the last two, so you'll naturally have almost any position at the company you want. It's easy to transition careers within a company if you can network, are intelligent, and have a solid work ethic.

Aug 18, 2019 - 5:59am

any degree from a top school (whether in a niche like a biz school, SFS @ Gtown or in general at like Harvard or Duke etc) for "most" professional jobs.

any rigorous degree (math/cs/engineering/physics/chem) from a decent school for anything technical or quantitative.

any decent creative degree from a top tier creative department/school for any creative careers.

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Aug 19, 2019 - 4:03pm

Right now, a double major in CS and Business. Firms are paying hand over fist for people with a good understanding in both tech and business, since we're in the midst of digitalization.

edit: The problem firms face is that there are a lot of business people out there, but they lack the technical know-how, while there's also a lot of technical people, but they lack the business side of things (sans tech people with MBA).

Firms tend to hire in big consulting firms for researching their needed digital strategy, and then other consulting firms to implement it all - but they still need in-house people that can manage it all.

I would say that 70% of recruiters and headhunters that have contacted me, are out to fill positions like that. It's almost always the same story "Our client is expanding / digitalizing their product / currently modernizing operations blablabla and looking for professionals with expertise in both technology and business, we see you have [Eng/Biz degrees and experience] etc."

Aug 20, 2019 - 12:03pm

If you have a different definition please mention below .

I mean, there are a ton of other definitions? Someone with a liberal arts degree may very well be a better rounded and happier person than someone who decided a finance degree was the way to go early on.

Given your criteria I agree with you, but as a liberal arts major who ended up in finance, I definitely had several major advantages over my peers who were undergrad business school folks. Better communication, both verbal and especially written, was a major one. Had an easier time connecting with clients (which has continued past my finance days), since not all of them were monomaniacal about banking, and being able to talk about history, politics, literature, etc in more than a surface manner came in handy.

Engineering and finance degrees are obviously the most useful for breaking into the finance industry (duh). But something I've noticed as I've gotten older is that people who do more than just climb the Analyst>Associate>VP>Director>MD ladder tend to have other interests. Actual interests, not just "I read the front page of the WSJ every morning". If all you've ever done since the day you left high school was practice building Excel models and prepping for banking interview questions to get that analyst role, it's hard to break that habit and start preparing to be someone who does more than churn flawless models in 5 minutes flat.

Aug 23, 2019 - 5:40am


Everyone circlejerks around Math/CS/Eng/Physics and Finance/Econ but the reality is there is a lot more to the world of knowledge than just those things (I just wouldn't recommend doing something Liberal Arts-y unless it's a good school or you're one of the best at a not so good school).

Aug 23, 2019 - 7:52pm

Business people at my college are by far more sociable and friendly than lib arts majors. And they have plenty of interests as well. Even the hardcore finance people (think investment fund members, masters in finance) are generally in business/Greek Life frats.


Aug 27, 2019 - 11:27am

Business people at my college are by far more sociable and friendly than lib arts majors. And they have plenty of interests as well. Even the hardcore finance people (think investment fund members, masters in finance) are generally in business/Greek Life frats.

Yeah, see, these aren't the same things as I was talking about and your inability to discern that is part of what I'm talking about.

Your finance friends are friendly with each other, it sounds like. They seem to be at a major remove from the other students. Did you ever stop to think that maybe this reflects the insularity and narrowness of intellectual interest of the business school, and not the fact that every other student on campus (and presumably there are many more of them) are all unusually surly and antisocial? And your evidence of how sociable these guys are - they're in a frat, that's it? So not only do they cluster in an educational sense, being only interested in the business school and its subjects, but outside of that they join frats together so they can continue to socialize in that narrow range. And lets be honest, it's not as if Greek life is some bastion of extracurricular learning.

Basically, you seem to be reinforcing my point for me. Even the hardcore finance people are in business frats... that's what you'd expect. The business school folks don't associate with the liberal arts people, and you assume that's because the latter are unfriendly. Seems far more likely that the reverse is true, that the B school folks have so little to offer anyone not invested in their same narrow range of interests, that no one is interested in socializing with them.

And that's not to demonize people who have a passion. But my original point was that most people in life aren't passionate about investing, even those who are involved in it at high levels. Most of those folks have something else that gives their life meaning, or fills their off hours, and not having that means you're missing out on a chance to connect with a potential client or client beyond the confines of a pitch book

Aug 20, 2019 - 12:12pm

Idk about useful but if I wasn't studying finance I would be studying philosophy

Gun rights activist
Aug 24, 2019 - 8:56pm

Above all I find it super interesting. I also believe studying philosophy really improves critical thinking, problem solving, skills as well as reading comprehension and being able to debate. It's also on awesome way to explore different perspectives and world views.

Gun rights activist
Aug 25, 2019 - 12:54am

Easily CS.
CS is readily useful and marketable. Math is not bad but you need to market yourself well. Everyone needs a CS in any industry and won't question your value.

Interested in health tech, consulting, and entrepreneurship.

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Aug 28, 2019 - 10:04am

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Aug 29, 2019 - 10:45am

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Look at all these wannabe richies hating on an expensive salad.

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